[OPINION] How to Get a Girlfriend: Practical Tips from a Former Therapist

Crystal Jackson

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The days of passing a note that says Will you be my girlfriend? Y or N are long gone. Hypothetically, you could still send that as a text, but if you don’t hit the right amount of cute, you risk seeming desperate or creepy. Dating is tough, and rejection is tougher.

As a former therapist (and former girlfriend), I’d like to offer some practical tips that could help you get a girlfriend if that’s what you’re looking for. I won’t start by telling you to love yourself. I feel that’s important at any age or stage and any relationship status. Yes, love yourself, but that’s not exactly the best or most practical advice when you’re just trying to figure out how not to be alone anymore. Instead, let’s focus on some actionable steps that can help you get what you want.

A Practical Guide to Getting a Girlfriend

Before we go any further, ask yourself why you want a girlfriend. A lot of answers may come to mind. Companionship. Intimacy — both physical and emotional. You need to know why you want one before you go any further. If it’s because everyone else has a plus-one, that’s not a great reason. If it’s because you cannot be alone, that’s also problematic. Are you looking for someone to fix you or make you happy? A girlfriend can’t do that. Might I recommend a good therapist?

If you want a girlfriend because you have a vibrant life that would benefit from a little companionship to make it even better, you’re in the right place. Let’s talk about some action steps you can take to go from Single to In a Relationship.

1. Project Confidence

If you want a girlfriend, you’re going to need to work on your confidence. First of all, do you have any? If you can’t see all the lovable things about yourself, how do you expect anyone else to see it?

It’s important to be confident and to know what you have to offer in a relationship. Dating isn’t just about assessing the other person’s qualities and how they’ll benefit you. It’s also knowing what value you bring to the table. It’s not a one-way street. You’re going to have to show that you are a strong partner, not just someone who is looking for one.

Confidence is attractive. When you feel good about yourself, it shows. Just like it shows when you don’t. Even if you’re innately shy, no one is asking that you become an extrovert to score a girlfriend. Just find your confidence and hold onto it.

2. Have a Sense of Humor

If you really want to get a girlfriend, you might want to lean into your sense of humor. Most people have one, and most people would list humor as a highly desirable quality. Here’s the thing though: jokes alone don’t work. They can even annoy. Instead of trying to be intentionally funny, work on leaning into your natural humor.

If you love dad jokes, enjoy telling them. If you’re more of a dry humor person, do more of that. If you speak fluent sarcasm, just double and triple check that it’s not being interpreted as flippant or mean. Your sense of humor is yours. If you see the world in a dark way but can find the humor, go for it. The right person is going to think you’re hilarious. The wrong person isn’t your person anyway, so who cares what they think?

3. Pay Attention to Your Appearance and Hygiene

One of the most practical things you can do if you want a girlfriend is to take good care of your appearance and personal hygiene. If you neglect soap, deodorant, and clean clothes, you can probably forget all about finding a plus-one. Smelling good and being clean are just the basics of normal human interaction. But it also goes beyond that.

Are you wearing clothes you feel good in? Do you present yourself well? Are you projecting who you are through what you choose to wear? The right person is going to love you even on your worst days, but that doesn’t mean you should start out by letting them see you at your worst. Making an effort shows respect for them, respect for yourself, and positive mental health. A slovenly appearance and terrible hygiene will likely nip a potential relationship in the bud long before it can bloom.

4. Put Yourself Out There: Online

If you want a girlfriend, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. Unless you’re planning on hitting on the next delivery person to pull up to your house, you’ve got to actually meet people. For many of us, the best option to meet new people is to go online and download a dating app.

I can’t tell you which dating app to choose. If I’m honest, I universally hate them all. There are far too many bots sneaking in to have a good quality experience, and frankly, I get tired of seeing people who are already in a relationship out there on the apps trying to source a side chick. However, with that being said, you know what you’re getting on a dating app. You know the people that you might match with have some interest in dating. You have a safe and neutral space to get to know them without even leaving your house.

If you really want to do yourself a favor, get a good friend or two to write your profile. They see you better than you see you. Plus, they may point out some things in your bio that you don’t even know you’re projecting. Get a second or even third opinion before you go live.

5. Put Yourself Out There: IRL

If you want a girlfriend, consider putting yourself out there in real life, too. You don’t have to sign up for speed dating or go on a singles trip. You can just join a club or participate in a hobby. Put yourself in situations where there’s any possibility at all of meeting another human being. Don’t do it solely to get a girlfriend. Pick something you love so that you’re not disappointed if all you ever do is make friends but fail to make a girlfriend connection.

Meeting someone is the first step. Stepping outside of your regular routine might be one way to meet a woman in real life. Another way is to practice mindfulness in your current routine. When you go to the grocery store, are you on auto pilot or are you aware of your surroundings and the attractive woman checking you out over the watermelon display? When you go out for lunch, are you open to the possibility of meeting someone? Sometimes, you just need to tune in and take a chance.

6. Prioritize Personal Growth and Therapy

The absolute most important thing you can do to get a girlfriend is to prioritize personal growth and for the love of all that’s holy, get a therapist!!! Do not think you have what it takes to fix your issues on your own. Yes, therapy can be cost prohibitive. Luckily, there are some more affordable online options available, and some therapists even offer a sliding pay scale based on your income. Do not attempt to go it alone.

A girlfriend isn’t meant to make you happy if you’re not happy already. Sorry, but we don’t provide that specific service. Only you can do that. But it’s also important to address your issues and unpack your relationship baggage before you try to get into a relationship. Or, if you’re already in a relationship, to do it as soon as you realize you haven’t.

A personal growth mindset is attractive. It shows that you’re willing to put in the work to improve. It shows that you have awareness of your faults and flaws. It also shows that you’re putting the effort into being a good partner and not just finding one.

7. Ask Friends to Set You Up

It might feel awkward but ask some of your friends to set you up with people they know. Unless your friends are terrible, they won’t set you up with poor matches. They want to be responsible for you finding your soulmate, not your next dating disaster dinner party story.

Ask if they know any single people they could set you up with. If your friend is a part of a couple, you could even ask for a group date or double date to ease the potential tension. Even an informal introduction could work over a blind date.

8. Adjust Your Expectations

I fully advocate having high standards, but I think they should also be realistic. If you’re looking for a perfect person, you’re never going to find one. Ask yourself if you’ve raised the bar to an appropriate level or if you’re just using it as an excuse to avoid intimacy.

The other side of this equation is that you might be expecting more of a partner than you are of yourself. If you want a physically fit partner but aren’t physically fit yourself, your expectations are skewed. You shouldn’t expect a quality from a partner that you’re unwilling to develop yourself. For instance, if you want a financially successful mate, it’s important that you also make every effort to keep your own finances healthy. Otherwise, you’re looking to date out of your league and aren’t being realistic in your expectations.

9. Improve Your Social and Emotional Intelligence

A helpful action step you can take is to learn more about social and emotional intelligence. Social intelligence allows you to better understand other people and how they work. Emotional intelligence allows you to better understand yourself and to regulate your feelings. Both of these types of intelligence can help improve your shot at getting a girlfriend.

We live in a society where many people are neurodiverse and don’t know it. They could have ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, or other qualities across a spectrum that could make relationships more challenging. Building social and emotional intelligence can help neurotypical and neurodiverse people connect with others. It can help make you more aware of how your actions impact others — and how their actions can impact you. This level of awareness is key to finding a partner.

10. Learn to Compliment Without Being Creepy

Let’s be clear: Catcalling is unattractive. Commenting on someone’s body in a direct message on social media is unattractive. Telling women to smile more — also a terrible idea and generally considered unacceptable. If you haven’t learned the art of complimenting someone without being creepy, it’s better to say nothing at all.

What would be even better is to learn how to offer a genuine compliment that’s unoffensive. Saying someone has a beautiful smile gets a whole different reaction than telling them they’d look better if they smiled. You might be surprised at how many people think it’s appropriate to tell someone online that they look good in some pictures but not in others. Rude, offensive comments are everywhere, and if you use them, you sabotage your ability to get a girlfriend.

11. Be Curious

You might think that curiosity isn’t a very practical, actionable step, but you’d be wrong. When you’re talking to your love interest, be curious about who they are, what they want, and what they like. Ask questions but withhold judgment. Just let your curiosity lead the way.

Being curious will short-circuit the temptation to make assumptions. Too often, we meet someone, and we start fitting them into what we’re looking for, and then we overlook the signs of who they are. Later, we act surprised and feel betrayed when we’re forced to accept that the version we invented for ourselves was never real. But if we’d been curious instead of trying to make them fit the profile, we might have either had a better relationship or avoided an incompatible match.

12. Be Emotionally Available

Are you truly ready for a girlfriend, or do you just want to be? There’s a big difference. After my last breakup, I accepted a date before I was ready. I was still grieving the loss. As much as I wanted to accept my former partner’s decision and move on, I was devastated. The morning leading up to the lunch date was awful. I was an absolute mess of anxiety. I wanted to cancel it, but it felt rude. I ended up going and regretting it. The person was nice enough, but I knew they weren’t for me. More than that, I knew I wasn’t emotionally available for a new relationship when I was still reeling from the loss of the last one.

Emotional availability is so much more than just being over your ex. You also need to be willing to be open with someone new. I’ve dated so many emotionally unavailable people, and the hard truth is that it successfully covered up my own emotional unavailability. When they were keeping me at arm’s length, I was able to keep up my guard without anyone being the wiser.

Being emotionally available is hard — particularly if you have a past history of trauma. It’s something you might have to work through before you can find and maintain a relationship. Just because you want a girlfriend doesn’t mean you’re ready for one. Do you know the difference between the two?

13. Be Self-Aware

How self-aware are you? Do you know your flaws? Are you capable of apologizing for mistakes? Do you have healthy self-worth? All these questions factor into self-awareness, which is one of the most important qualities you can bring to the table in relationships.

You need to see yourself as you are, not as you want to be. So often, I’ve been presented with grandiose ideas of who someone thought they were, and it often seemed incongruent with reality. It’s important to understand how people see you versus how you see yourself. Incongruence between the two could indicate a lack of self-awareness.

14. Be Vulnerable Enough to Risk Rejection

If you really want a girlfriend, you’re going to have to risk rejection. I cannot tell you a way to avoid it. There’s not one. You’re going to have to make yourself vulnerable and let someone know that you’d like to be in a relationship with them.

It can be scary. Rejection feels awful, and no one enjoys it. You might think it’s better not to know, but you’ll only elevate your anxiety the longer the uncertainty continues. Are you ready to put your heart out there and trust someone else to treat it kindly?

The truth of any relationship is that it will end. Eventually, people leave or they die. That sounds dark, doesn’t it? It’s the reality of life. Love is the thing that makes it worth it, but sometimes, it makes it hard, too. To love anyone is to risk loss, and you are challenged to do this anyway. You have to believe the love is worth it and understand there are no guarantees that you won’t hurt each other along the way.

15. Just Ask

In the end, if you want a girlfriend, you’re going to have to ask. It’s not a guys have to ask girls thing. If you want a girlfriend, you may have to initiate because you’re the one who knows what you want. I’d say the same if you wanted a boyfriend or a gender non-binary relationship. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no, right?

So, type out the do you like me? y or n text if you need it. Write in a note. Send it with a meme. However you need to ask to feel comfortable doing it, you’re going to have to make the move. You can even just ask straight out if they feel comfortable updating a relationship status with you. If you want to be exclusive, say that. If you want to be polyamorous, say that. Define what it is you’re asking for, and then be willing to commit to those terms.

In Conclusion

It’s natural to want a partner. There are a lot of ways to find one, but in the end, you’ll have to summon the courage to make it official. In my last relationship, I was the one who asked. It was terrifying but exhilarating, too. I knew what I wanted, and I went out on a limb to find out if he wanted that, too.

Sometimes, the answer is no. That’s okay. A rejection is merely a redirection to the right person for you. Feel your feelings, grieve, and move on. Because one day, you’ll ask the right person, and the answer will be yes.

Originally published on The Truly Charming

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

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